Guest Blog: Revelations on the road by David Savage, Group Technology Evangelist
Sooner or later I'm going to have to stop feeling slightly embarrassed and awkward when I'm asked the question;
"So where are you jetting to next Dave?"
The question hints at the very fortunate position I find myself in. I am responsible for helping build awareness and positive sentiment for our brands, and ultimately broker new relationships for the group.
That means being seen as a credible voice across our industry. As the role grows I am increasingly invited to stages around the world. On that journey my eyes are constantly being opened to the challenges and innovative solutions across technology.
Rio De Janeiro (Web Summit Rio)
In May I found myself in Rio moderating discussions on sustainable technology and education. I am embarrassed to admit that I imagined the conversations might be a little behind the ones we’re having in Europe.
That was soon shown to be arrogant. Social media trends are far ahead of our own and Brazilians are early adopters. That means the country is taking to concepts such as 'live commerce' (a fully interactive digital shopping experience) in huge numbers. Alongside China, Brazil is at the forefront.
Brazil is vast, and has a huge population. Only 3% speak English. That's driving innovation internally, and many are looking to unlock the potential of the favelas for new ideas and growth.
It also benefits from a young and technically skilled workforce who are taking to the concept of ‘airplane mode’; working for overseas businesses remotely.
Where language barriers have held Brazilians back, they can stay at home and access a range of new opportunities. The dynamic surrounding remote and hybrid working is entirely different.
Toronto (Collision) and Berlin (IFA)
We are living through a climate crisis. Sat at home, that can feel hard to fully grasp.
So when I sat in an Uber in Toronto in June and my lungs ached, it was a shock. I was there at the same time as the Toronto Jazz Festival, most of it was canceled on health grounds. Running outside was discouraged. The city was shrouded in smoke from wildfires and suffering the third worst air quality on the planet.
Is technology doing enough to tackle the issue? Later in the summer I was on stage at IFA, moderating the sustainability stage. Much like tech and society more broadly, we found ourselves tucked in the corner surrounded by huge stands paid for by less concerned consumer driven organisations.
In one discussion I was joined by Ole Nielsen, Chief of the Montreal Protocol Division at the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, and Dr Chang Wei, Chief Technology Office for Midea Group. Mid-panel I thought Ole was about to burst into tears with frustration.
Midea were called out for Green Washing on stage. Slightly awkward as I'd been told that Midea had sponsored the session and had been made to sit and run each question past their PR team. I asked Ole what he hoped; that we weren't here having exactly the same conversation next year. I don't think he'll get his wish.
Lisbon (Web Summit)
AI is everywhere. Every emerging business seems compelled to say "we're an AI powered business too", despite fearing that it means investors will look at them and assume that Big Tech is going to trample them.
However, customers are beginning to ask for AI features to be turned off, a comment that I heard more than once during Web Summit. Todd Olson, CEO of Pendo (a US based software business) went as far as describing his clients as being scared.
Why? Well users have raced to adopt GenAI, but companies are less sure how to regulate its use. Samsung found they were leaking data and intellectual property through their staff's enthusiasm for ChatGPT. The feeling is there is a big fall guy around the corner, and no one wants to be ‘it’.
Paris (France Digital Day)
On Sky News our CEO Bev White was asked a ridiculous question, "Should the UK have invited China to their AI Summit?".
I think the answer is clearly yes. China has a huge internal market fuelling vast mountains of data. Their ability to move and to innovate is unmatched, you simply can't freeze them out of dialogue.
Yet some disagree. I was lucky to be invited to Paris this autumn and heard Gary Shapiro, President of the CTA saying that we should only deal with our friends, before stating that China isn’t a friend. His point was that in the west we cherish entrepreneurialism, whereas China values the state above all else.
Gary has kindly invited me to CES in Vegas in January (the answer to our opening question), where over 130,000 technology professionals will gather, including a large number of Chinese businesses. Beyond data, China is the world leader in the EV market and a key player if the world is going to combat the climate crisis. They have to be someone we work with more closely.
We need consensus building to be front-of-mind for our leaders, and it’s an area we have to give credit to the government for when it comes to AI. More of that please.
A world of rich opportunity
We are lucky to work in a forward-facing business working across a variety of sectors and regions. I am luckier still to explore markets where Nash Squared perhaps isn’t quite so established.
For years I have looked at our reports and thought, for all the change happening around us, there is consensus and similar talking points. The last year has opened my eyes a little wider to see it’s all a little messier than that. Whilst there are challenges, there are also exciting opportunities for growth. Even in difficult markets, there is plenty happening to quicken the pulse.